Reviews /

Norah’s Ark

Authored by Victoria Williamson
Published by Neem Tree Press Limited

Norah’s Ark is a story of two very different children, Norah and Adam, who work as a team to save their rescued animals when a flood hits the town.

Norah’s Dad tells her that she doesn’t have a Mum, that she was grown in a test tube until she was big enough for him to look after. Things have been hard for them both since Dad lost his job; they live in temporary accommodation and often the money for food runs out and so they have to make use of the local foodbank and the supply of tea and biscuits in church on a Sunday. Norah has had to move many times due to unpaid rent and often the other children in school are unkind to her, because she doesn’t have new clothes and often the ones she does have are dirty and a bit smelly.

Adam seems to have it all. He lives in a big house with his Mum and Dad with plenty to eat and even has a private tutor instead of going to school. But things are also hard for Adam. He has had leukaemia which stopped him doing what he loved the most – swimming. Now even though he is in remission, his mum is still at home watching his every move and he feels trapped in his own home.

One day, when Norah goes to visit some baby birds she has been looking after, she finds that Adam has taken them into his own garden to look after them. They form a rescue team and as well as finding lots of animals to rescue they also find friendship and things in common. However, both Norah’s Dad and Adam’s parents are not keen on them being friends and try to stop them seeing each other. Then, when the town floods, where are the zoo of rescued animals are and how will they be rescued form the rising water? Also, can they solve the identity of the mysterious woman who seems very keen to meet Norah?

This is a poignant and uplifting book, which explores what it is like to be outside society as a child. It describes the experiences of both children with honesty but giving a real insight into the everyday challenges that homeless children and their families face, as well as the isolation felt by children recovering from serious illness. The content is hard hitting at times but is sensitively presented and I would recommend this book to older KS2 pupils that you know very well, or KS3. It could be used to reflect on homelessness and illness as well as the obvious links to nature and animal rescue and you could use extracts in assemblies to promote charities such as Shelter, to which 20% of the author royalties are donated. I found myself thinking about this book long after I had finished and I am sure you will too.

Longlisted for the Spark Book Awards 2024 Fiction 9+ Category